Reframing Ancestral Jewish Melodies



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It was a pleasure to broadcast Teiku from our studios here at Blue Lake Public Radio to the tens of thousands of listeners who tune in...such personal music...transmuted into something excitingly new and previously unheard, is the pinnacle of creative musical expression.
— Lazaro Vega, Blue Lake Public Radio, West Michigan

Josh Harlow and Jonathan Taylor both grew up singing unique Passover melodies that were brought to America when their ancestors immigrated from the Jewish-Ukrainian communities in Bershnitz and Monastrishte. Their musical project Teiku interprets these melodies through the lens of creative music and modern jazz, reframing them as launching points for improvisation and arranging them in a rich song cycle that is deeply personal yet universal in its beauty.

The excitement of improvisation lies in its uncertainty and its potential for infinite possibilities. Teiku (a Talmudic acronym which means “unanswered question”) refers to the collective feeling of discovery that improvising musicians know well: creating spontaneous and cohesive sonic environments that are felt viscerally but cannot be expressed with words.

Teiku is also archival in its scope, working to document and reframe unique family melodies from the larger Jewish community. Harlow (piano) and Taylor (drums) are joined in various formations by John Lindberg (bass) Peter Formanek (woodwinds) Aliya Ultan (cello) and Will McEvoy (bass) to bring this concept to life.

Teiku presents a whole different spin on Passover songs. Inventive and creative, the highly skilled quartet takes the familiar to a whole other realm.
— Jeff Remz, Publisher and Editor, Country Standard Time
We loved the talent, cohesiveness and the joy that emanated from the music and the musicians.

Hearing the stories of childhood connections that have made their way into musical experimentation, and the expansion of ideas that are so much a part of our tradition, enabled us to enter into the music more fully.

Great musicians, great idea, great event!
— Arnold Zar-Kessler, Executive Director, Inspiring Educators; Lorel Zar-Kessler, Cantor, Congregation Beth El Sudbury River Valley
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A stunning and meaningful project and performance! We must make our music personal.
— Deanna Relyea, Artistic Director, Edgefest Ann Arbor